WORLD rowing champions Mark O’Donovan and Shane O’Driscoll have been honoured at the Irish Youth Foundation Excellence in Sport Awards.
The rowers who won gold medals for Ireland at both the 2017 European and World Rowing Championships in the lightweight men’s pair category, received their award from golf superstar, Padraig Harrington, at a glamorous awards ceremony in Dublin on Monday night.
Other award recipients included rugby legend, Paul O’Connell, European gold medal winning sprinter, Gina Akpe-Moses, father-and-son horse racing duo, Aidan and Joseph O’Brien, World Rugby Referee of the Year, Joy Neville and Olympic boxer, Michael Carruth. Lions rugby coach, Warren Gatland, the Dublin GAA team and the Irish Show Jumping Team were also recognised.
Speaking after the event, Skibbereen rower, Shane O’Driscoll, said: “This is the first national recognition award we’ve received since the World Championships and it means an awful lot to us. It’s nice to reflect on your achievements and we’re delighted to be recognised. It will keep us going for a while, now that we’re back into the hard slog of winter training.
“It’s also nice to have rowing recognised, because it’s such a great sport. You can take it up at any age and it’s such good fun. Anyone, young or old, can jump in a boat!” he said.
The rowing stars were interviewed on stage at the ceremony in the Burlington Road Clayton Hotel, by RTE sports presenter and master of ceremonies for the evening, Joanne Cantwell, who asked what they had done differently this year to achieve their world level success.
“We had a bit more belief in ourselves and to put it simply, we didn’t want to come fourth again! We wanted to win a medal at every regatta,” said Shane.
“We focused on overcoming our doubts and giving it everything because there’s no point in going out there if you think you can’t do it or you’re not 100% committed and I think that’s something all the sports people in the audience could identify with.”
Speaking about sharing the stage with other sports stars, the affable rower said: “It was great to be up there with people like Paul O’Connell. He’s a living legend and when he stood up to speak, the whole room just went quiet. He was a very inspirational speaker and he talked about the fact that since he’s retired, he only remembers good things about his sports career, even though he probably found it all very challenging at the time. So it was great to hear insights like that.”
Shane, who trains for Ireland at the National Rowing Centre in Farran Wood, Cork, said that he and his team mate felt honoured to receive the award from such a worthwhile organisation.
“We got a real insight into the work of the Irish Youth Foundation at the awards and when you hear about the hardship some young people experience, it’s shocking. It makes you feel so privileged and I’m glad that sport can be a positive outlet for so many young people,” said Shane.
All proceeds from the black tie fundraising event will go toward the Irish Youth Foundation’s work with children and young people living in disadvantaged circumstances. The charity works primarily in the areas of homelessness, after school education, primary-to-secondary school transition and skills and employability. Last year the Excellence in Sport Awards raised over €100,000 for the charity.